This is an installment of Ocra’s “Parking Origin Stories” series that shares the personal stories of passionate parking professionals about how they entered the industry.
A shorter version of this story was first published by Parking Today Media starting on page 44 of their March 2023 edition.
Today’s Story: Jonah Lazowski, CEO & Founder @ A Lot Media
Parking Origin Stories is a series featuring parking’s “new guard” of founders and executives.
In this installment, we have the opportunity to learn more about a young leader who grew up in the industry, starting out as a flagger and valet before becoming a passionate parking entrepreneur who helps operators monetize physical space in a brand new way.
A rising tide, as many say, raises all ships – and it’s through understanding, empathy, and transparency that the most rewarding partnerships are born.
With his one-two punch of ingrained parking knowledge and fine-tuned consumer media savvy, Jonah Lazowski (founder & CEO of A Lot Media) harnesses the power of eye-popping advertising and interactive hardware within parking facilities to transform a 2-D lot into a 3-D customer experience.
It shows what happens when you harness decades of parking expertise to pivot and push yourself to grow. It’s what results from learning to leverage the power of your own unique perspective, and to celebrate and recognize the diversity of journeys we each take to cross the finish line.
“I’ve always been immersed in the parking world.”
You could say that parking is in Jonah’s blood. It’s been a part of his life as long as he can remember (his father, Al Lazowski, started valeting 43 years ago in Hartford, Connecticut and today is the CEO of LAZ Parking).
According to Jonah, “parking and how it was changing” was a routine dinner-table topic in his house, and his interest in and enthusiasm for the industry was nurtured throughout his youth.
Jonah admits that while it was definitely a “random world” to be so immersed in as a kid, he enjoyed it; his entrepreneurial spirit was developing, and he found it stimulating to be in the thick of an industry that was changing at breakneck speed.
As soon as he was old enough, Jonah would spend his summers flagging at events, recruiting his friends to earn some extra cash. His next gig was taking tickets at the booth in 29 Temple Street in Hartford, and then he graduated to valet parking at a hospital downtown.
When thinking back on his past employment, Jonah laughs a little as he recalls that he wasn’t thrilled that he didn’t get tips at the hospital like he did at 29 Temple Street, but being that it was a higher base than the ticketing gig, it all worked out in the end. (Relatable.)
By the time he attended his first National Parking Association (NPA) expo in 2017, he had the lay of the land and hands-on experience comparable with many folks in the room.
But little did he know, the world of park-tech was about to crack open like a book in front of him, and it wouldn’t be so long before he was helping author it.
“Parking was entering its next renaissance.”
Today, we talk about parking going through a renaissance, with future-forward operators and vendors ushering in a new era of technology, integrations, and data – an era of true connectivity, really, between all of the sectors and silos that have historically slowed or impeded progress.
What we talk about when we talk about the advancement of a long-established industry is identifying the inflection points: what are the customer’s critical moments with us (before, during, and after the on-site parking experience), and how do we understand those better to the outcome of higher revenue?
Back in 2017, when Jonah was on the floor at his first NPA expo, it was thoughts like these that were whirring through his head.
At this point, he’d been involved in parking for six years, and his first exposure to the industry (through LAZ) was still his only frame of reference – that was about to change.
He’d been living in Los Angeles in 2017 when his father rang him up, encouraging him to meet him at the NPA expo, which was taking place in Palm Springs that year.
What Jonah observed while on site was that there were very few companies in the space starting conversations about cloud-based technology. The buzzwords, as we know them, hadn’t crystallized yet; the terms that dominate parking dialogue today (dynamic pricing, yield management, customer engagement…) were just beginning to emerge.
Jonah left the show engaged and energized. He wanted to see more technology companies at NPA and be involved in those conversations. The innovation in the sessions, on the expo hall floor, and even in casual chats felt fresh and green, with new ideas budding all over.
As a “new guard” parking professional, he’d always been a proponent of technology (his generation grew up on the internet, after all!). At that conference, he decided he would become a part of what was happening. Jonah was going to play a role in the modernization of the industry.
Enter: A Lot Media.
“It’s kind of a triple entendre.“
Jonah founded A Lot Media in 2017 with the aim of creating additional value for parking garages. He admits that’s a broad statement, but it’s a useful one, because it accomplishes “a lot” (author’s note: the puns in here are my fault, not Jonah’s – forgive me, I couldn’t resist!).
First and foremost, A Lot Media enables advertising within parking lots and garages. Jonah and his team identify customer touchpoints and create new ones, using space on existing hardware (like gate arms) and new equipment (digital screens and signage, which A Lot Media creates themselves with their manufacturing provider) to display compelling, relevant messages that customers actually take action on.
Jonah built A Lot Media from the ground up, as Founder & CEO from day one. He started the company while living out in Los Angeles. The first few years of A Lot Media, Jonah recalls, were spent figuring out how to have a company and what he was aiming to accomplish.
Due to his previous experiences in parking, Jonah was aware of the nuances and needs unique to the industry. But what he knew more surely than anything was that he needed to know more.
Like all of parking’s most successful young leaders – past, present, and future – Jonah listened first, acted next. He wasn’t on a mission to bust in and mix things up just because they felt outdated to him. He wanted to work hand-in-hand with operators and use the past to help shape the future.
According to Jonah, he “went everywhere and met with anyone who had any interest” in sharing their experiences with a young entrepreneur who was out to create momentum. He was on the road for eighteen out of the A Lot’s first twenty-four months, gathering info and galvanizing its mission.
“Where people saw blank wall space, we saw opportunity.“
A parking lot or facility, as we all know, is a physical space. Within its walls, fences, cones, or barriers, parkers interact with various people, technologies, and equipment. This amounts to the customer experience, which directly impacts retention and revenue.
What Jonah was realizing was that not all of that physical space was being utilized for revenue generation, and that there were missed opportunities for touch-points in the on-site customer experience.
It was clear to him that between the non-stop foot traffic and abundance of physical space, a parking facility is perfectly engineered for running successful digital advertising campaigns.
Those campaigns could live in currently neglected spaces – “scaled-down versions of billboards” on places like walls, gate arms, elevator doors, and even in the white space on rate boards – without interrupting the operator’s main business of parking cars.
Hearing from so many operators that it was frustrating when vendors asked them for a section of their facility for their service – a section that, as a result, some customers would no longer be able to pay to park in – it was important to Jonah that he didn’t do the same.
Rather, he wanted to bring value to the empty wall, the blank gate-arm, and the thumbprint-scuffed elevator door. And not in a static, one-dimensional way, but in a way that is measurable and attributable to bottom-line growth.
“We needed a proof of concept.”
In 2019, Jonah installed his equipment and brought in an advertising partner for 30+ garages in Connecticut. A Lot Media was able to create $200,000 in value from one advertiser for the parking operators that participated in this proof of concept – staggering, unprecedented results. All seeing the value, both of the operators and the advertiser renewed their agreements.
Today, all of A Lot Media’s screens are interactive, making it easy for customers to redeem deals via QR code, for example, for businesses in the area. And because they own their own manufacturing, A Lot Media can build custom units with advanced functionality like printing coupons.
Jonah’s team of twelve developers creates the advertising assets and campaigns, employing testing, targeting, best practices, and ongoing optimizations to improve performance.
Additionally, Jonah, who worked in the advertising space in New York before founding A Lot Media, understands that colorful, thoughtful, well-designed advertisements “brighten up the look of a space”.
He’s out to help improve the look and feel of garages, making them more pleasing, appealing places to park, which boosts retention for operators.
“Here’s the secret sauce.”
With his advertising model yielding significant results, Jonah started thinking five steps ahead: what could he be doing aside from activating successful campaigns within parking facilities?
He continued attending conferences and meeting with industry luminaries, keeping his eyes and ears wide open. What he observed is that more and more technology companies were showing up, exhibiting, and making their voices heard.
However, even though words like “dynamic pricing” permeated every conversation, no one was quite cracking the code. Awareness and interest were spreading like wildfire. However, the integrations and partnerships necessary to put these concepts into action – in a real, meaningful way, one akin to how they’re applied in other industries – didn’t exist yet.
How do you allow a garage to update their rate board in a way that doesn’t require the operator to create a new sign or update their equipment?
If the operator wants to adjust pricing based on occupancy, market events, weather, or whatever else, what technologies need to talk to one another to make that happen?
In Jonah’s mind, the answer to questions like these was clear: integrations. So that’s what he did. First, A Lot Media started working with Parkonect and, soon after, FLASH, and some other businesses that FLASH would later acquire.
What these integrations accomplished was this: whenever the operator updated their rates in their PARCS system, it was pushed to A Lot Media’s digital signage, instantly conveying this information to customers.
In the same screens as where A Lot Media was displaying advertising, they could section off the top two-thirds as a dynamic rate display board and utilize the remaining third for digital campaigns.
This, according to Jonah, is A Lot Media’s “secret sauce”. They have the ability to create custom equipment and integrations that serve both operators and customers in new ways. Their back-end is flexible, their team is savvy, and their partnerships are built on solving for a better future.
“I’m so excited for what’s up next.”
When asked about what’s on A Lot Media’s roadmap, Jonah becomes more animated. With virtually no prompting, he generously shares, on a high-level, his plans for how he and his team will continue to work with operators to eradicate problems and unearth value.
“There are a couple of future ideas that would be so exciting for us,” Jonah says, “and one of them revolves around LPR. Imagine that you have an LPR solution hooked up in your garage and, with an A Lot Media integration, you’re able to welcome someone directly by scanning their plate and displaying their name right there on the digital screen when they’re rolling in. Providing info and personalization at those key touch-points, that’s really what we offer.”
Another application of A Lot Media’s advanced integrations could be that operators can check in real time to see what spaces are available and actually reserve a zone for someone, pointing the customer there and delivering a smooth parking experience that they’re likely to want to repeat.
Ultimately, Jonah is excited to be able to distribute information within facilities and facilitate the connection between all of these technologies. What he wants is for A Lot to be a critical service that operators always consider when they’re looking over their projections of the year.
Whether it’s through advertising, dynamic pricing, or whatever the company does down the road as their technology continues to evolve, he wants to be a partner they can rely on for a predictable stream of revenue.
“One thousand and one things are being talked about.”
In Jonah’s mind, the question “who knows what’s gonna happen with parking?” isn’t an unnerving one; rather, it represents huge potential. He envisions that last-mile logistics and delivery will be a huge opportunity.
This is exciting for A Lot Media because the places that are best for effective advertising are large cities, which are hubs for this sort of activity and where initiatives will roll out the quickest.
A Lot Media serves up tremendous value as the interaction point between delivery and parkers and advertisers. Just a few of the examples that Jonah cites: notifying a customer via digital signage that their dry cleaning was dropped off at the garage at a specific locker number, or installing helipads on the roofs of facilities for drones to deliver packages.
One thing’s for sure in Jonah’s mind: parking facilities are no longer a static, sterile place to leave a car. We don’t know which things are going to make the biggest impact. And, as a result, the potential for progress is uncapped.
Parking is prime real estate. There will always be vehicles on the road; ergo, there will always be a demand for this space. How do we, as an industry, activate it more and make it better? How do we provide more technology, more access, and more value for the consumer?
As answers to these questions emerge, Jonah is revved up and ready to play a major role in helping connect people within this evolving ecosystem.
“I see myself staying in the industry we’re becoming.”
In Jonah’s own words, parking, transportation, and mobility stand out in a sea of industries undergoing transformation because there are so few left anymore that have such astronomical potential for growth.
“Parking is, in essence, kind of a late bloomer,” he says. “Nothing has changed for decades. Now we’re like, whoa, there is incredible value in bringing all of this tech into our world. We’re viewing ourselves, and rightfully so, as a part of something bigger – the amalgamation of prime real estate, customer touchpoints, and transactions. There’s so much built into this.”
“Doing the right thing is the only way to do business.”
Over the years, Jonah has learned not just an enormous amount about parking, but also about being an entrepreneur and business owner.
He says that his biggest takeaway is that you need to be treating others the way you want to be treated, and that acting with integrity is the only way to act. It’s easy, he observes, to fall out of that and do what’s fast and quick, but that’s not a recipe for building lasting relationships.
As all of us know, parking is a very small and tight-knit community. Jonah believes strongly that we need to retain that and make sure everyone stays together, pointed towards the same north star. Jonah subscribes to the philosophy that a rising tide raises all ships, and the partners he seeks out believe this, too.
As he thinks back to COVID-19 and the challenges the parking community faced during that period, what he remembers most is the collaboration that came out of a trying time, between even the largest competitors. Everyone was working together to help everyone.
That’s the future he wants – and the one that he’ll without a doubt, as a leader, help us all achieve.
To learn more about Jonah and his parking journey, connect with him on LinkedIn. Have a parking story to share? Contact Sarah Becherer, VP Marketing @ Ocra, at email@example.com.